Peer Review or Vetting?

Abstract

A technical report intended for publication is considered more credible if it has been subjected to peer review. This process is considered and compared to the intended and actual results. An alternative approach known as vetting is discussed and a recommendation is made for which and when these techniques should be applied for etheric studies.


Introduction

In the context of technical articles and research reports proposed for publication, peer review is a process by which a document is evaluated by a group of experts in the appropriate field. In the same sense, vetting a document is to subject it to subject matter expert appraisal or correction for possible acceptance. The academic community has adopted the peer review model, and publications claiming to be peer-reviewed journals are seen to be of a higher academic standard. To a great extent, articles published in such journals inherit this credibility.

While this makes sense conceptually, actual practice does not necessarily meet this intended standard of excellence. For all fields of study, the concerns include:

  • There is seldom public visibility of the peer review process. Therefore:

    • The qualifications of the reviewers are not known.

    • The public is unable to know if questions about data collection protocol, data analysis or conclusions have been asked, and if so, if they were asked by people qualified to evaluate the answers.

    • Without oversight, a “good old boy” culture may develop in which review of “club” values (procedure, formatting, author credentials) may be accepted as peer-review, while subject matter content may not be appraised.

  • The resulting document becomes part of the body of literature which is accessed by other researchers, thus multiplying the effect of this lack of visibility.

  • Publication editors are able to select comments from the public, and thereby control the apparent acceptability of the article.

For frontier subjects which may include emergent science, the concerns also include:

  • Mainstream authority is virtually always the only source for both author and peers. Consequently the public has been taught to respect academically credentialed scientists with little reservation and the resulting peer reviewed article is seen to represent the truth about the subject.

  • In practice, the entire body of literature produced by people studying the frontier subject is simply ignored because of the lack of academic standing and inability to be published in “respected” journals.

  • Frontier subjects become represented by the mainstream academic community, which by contrast, biases public perception of “believers.”

  • Public funding for research and education in frontier subjects depends on the perception of the subject fostered by mainstream academia, and is consequently mostly unavailable.

There are many factors influencing the effect of peer review practices and in truth, probably none  are malicious or intended to suppress frontier subjects. However, while all of these may be unintended consequences, they are also virtually all controlled by the mainstream academic culture.

Scope of Studies

Research is conducted from the perspective of the researcher. Research reports are selected from the perspective of the publication. Validity of research is judged based on the perspectives of the peer community, which is established by the publishing association. For instance, the Parapsychological Association limits full members to academically trained doctorates recommended by other full members. The majority of article published in their peer-reviewed journal are written by full members and the articles are reviewed by … well, by their fellow parapsychologists. This process of natural selection is enforced to some degree in other peer reviewed journals. One can easily determine if this process is in action in other organizations by reviewing membership requirements and the credentials of members of the advisory boards.

To evaluate the practical usefulness of peer reviewed articles, one must first understand how the study of these phenomena has been divided by viewpoints. The ATransC uses an energy model, meaning that the nature of reality is seen to be characterized by the nature of the energy associated with each aspect of reality. Other than the mainstream view that all of these phenomena are impossible and therefore cannot exist, there are three major viewpoints one must consider; 1) Parapsychology – personality and body are one and if these phenomena exist, they are a product of human perception or biological behaviors; 2) Psychical Studies – personality may or may not be distinct from body and there is a subtle energy field that permeates the world and that is a product of life, connects all of life and is influenced by intention; and, 3) Etheric studies – personality is separate from body and is native to a greater reality (the etheric) of which the physical is an aspect. (These viewpoints dominate but are not necessarily help by a person working in the associated field.)

These areas of study are not sharply delineated, and admittedly, are described here from the viewpoint of a person specializing in etheric studies. Salient to this discussion is that each of these fields of study have specialized vocabularies that, in the case of parapsychology and psychic studies, restricts consideration of the etheric studies perspective. In etheric studies, it is clear that some reported phenomena simply cannot be studied without also considering findings in psychical studies and parapsychology. Yet, research reports in these fields are seldom composed with the allowance of concepts important to etheric studies.

Psychical studies and parapsychology are supported by academic institutions and enjoy the benefit of well-established university library systems. These fields are relatively mature and have managed to inherit an academic culture and associations supporting collaboration. Although research funding is not nearly as available as for mainstream sciences, researcher’s academic credentials do make some research funding available.

There are few academically trained researchers in etheric studies and virtually no publications supported by academia. The culture remains very “frontier” in that few who study these phenomena are familiar with process of peer review and professional cooperation.

Need for “Good Science”

It should be acknowledged that no real understanding can be accomplished without a community of collaborating amongst subject matter specialists. What is available today is far better an alternative to no effort to assure publications of well-considered literature. With that said, existing provisions for peer-review and publication of important material do not support etheric studies. There are few academically trained researchers in the field and most of those are brave parapsychologists and psychologists who are willing to risk their careers. There is the one problem that most such research is conducted from the perspective of the psyche, rather than physics.

The key point here is that we need good science, but to have that, we must first have scientists and for that, we must first have a community of people trained in the art of critical thinking and the scientific method. As noted above, current provisions do little to fill this need. One solution is to evolve a different business model for publication and accreditation of articles.

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